Just when you think we’re done talking about her, here we are again. Taylor Swift sparked a lot of strong reactions on Sunday night with her Instagram post supporting two Tennessee midterm candidates (Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives, both Democrats). She spoke up against Marsha Blackburn, Republican Senate candidate who “appalled” Swift with her voting record. The lengthy Instagram comment also includes statements supporting LGBTQ rights and against policies that support systemic racism and sexism.
If you’re shocked to hear that Taylor Swift used the words “systemic racism” in an Instagram comment, you are not alone. The singer has been infamously silent on all political matters for the entirety of her long career. This went mostly unnoticed in a carefree Obama presidency but sparked great internet debate and controversy after the 2016 election.
It’s no secret that many of Swift’s fans come from red states. Many detractors online accused her of not using her platform to support the causes and campaigns she supposedly believes in due to fear of backlash from her conservative fans. Others posited that she stayed silent on the election because she did vote for Trump (for reasons such as: she’s white, she’s from the south, she’s in the 1%, she loves money) but kept it secret to avoid facing Hollywood exile.
While many have praised Left-Tay’s newfound political voice, some feel it is still not enough. Why didn’t she say anything about Kavanaugh? The timing of the post makes it obvious that she was motivated by the hearing, argue others. And Swift’s public statements are generally subtle, poised, and full of subtext. She’s never gonna tweet out “Fuck Donald Trump” or anything similar. However, Swift has been vocal in the past about sexual assault. Why wouldn’t she state anything explicitly about it this time? Of course, she still did not break her silence on the 2016 presidential vote. Can we now safely assume she voted for Hillary? Some simply feel no matter what she says now, it all feels like backtracking and saving face.
The endorsement post comes just one day after the record-breaking Reputation Tour’s final North American stop, Arlington, TX. Coincidence? Many think not, accusing her of prioritizing her ticket sales over using her platform to voice support for liberal candidates or causes. It’s not the first time Swift been accused of taking precise and calculated risks for the sake of PR. After all, it could be argued that she voiced support on issues that are relatively “safe” for the majority of her young fanbase — LGBTQ rights, for example — but still made this declaration as a way to address the common criticism for staying silent at key political moments and prioritizing her own money above all else. To take that notion even further, it’s been pointed out that the post, and the stir it caused, boosted sales of not just of Reputation but her entire discography.
It’s also notable that her longtime foe (and, with his wife, original “canceller” of her 1989-era reign) Kanye West has recently aligned himself more and more with all things MAGA. But again, is this happenstance? Her publicist undoubtedly has a Google Alert for anything Kanye-related, just in case, and surely Taylor is well aware of the controversy surrounding some of Kanye’s latest tweet storms. It’s about as perfect a time as any to affirm her position in the Democrat camp.
Now, it goes without saying that she took some amount of risk directly endorsing democratic candidates and addressing LGBTQ rights, sexual assault, and racism. There have been consequences. Her klout amongst conservative fans — including Donald Trump — has considerably fallen. Some reacted even more strongly — this video floating around Twitter of a burning 1989 CD jacket comes to mind.
Regardless of the motivation or intended effect, the post has already left a tangible mark on the midterm elections. Multiple sources have reported a major spike in voter registration that correlates with Taylor’s post and the media attention it brought. ABC reports a spike of over 100,000 new registered voters, a good portion of which in Tennessee. In her AMA acceptance speech tonight, she spoke up again, not offering any more endorsements this time but just encouraging AMA voters to make sure to also vote in the midterms.Anything encouraging voter participation, the way I look at it, is unequivocally good.
“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions,” Swift admitted in her original post, “but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.” Whether or not you really believe this to be true is up to you. But I know for a fact that we’ll be looking to her for a stance when the next major political controversy comes along.
And remember, Taylor. We can hear it in the silence.